Ball joints

I took my car in for it’s oil change. The place is a full service location, but I just go there for oil changes. The mechanic doing my oil change said that both lower ball joints were shot and needed to be replaced. Back in early Oct. I had a full inspection done on the car. At that time I was told the driver side was starting to show wear, but the passenger side was okay. Can ball joints deteriate that quickly. Is this normal when having an oil change done to check ball joints, or can they been seen when underneath the car without much issue?

My normal repair mechanic said he can replace both for $180 total labor cost and I supply the ball joints? Does this sound reasonable? Is replacing lower ball joints on a 1998 Ford Taurus SE stationwagon difficult?

Follow up, I will be buying the ball joints and my mechanic will be putting them on. Since my car has maybe 1 year of life left in it due to engine issues, Do I need to go with anything over just basic ball joints?

Your car has 1 year left to live and your buying ball joints, this is a decision to evaluate carefully.

If I don’t there is a good chance I will cause more damage then the $230 total to fix both ball joints, plus it is dangerous to drive with bad ball joints.

First, does the mechanic who is going to do the work agree that the ball joints should be replaced? If so, I would go with inexpensive ball joints. For example, O’Reilly auto parts shows a $25.99 ball joint and a Moog $57.99 ball joint. Go for the generic brand; same warranty. Peace of mind is worth $240-$300 for the next year.

“it is dangerous to drive with bad ball joints”

Let’s see??? Ball joint breaks. Loss of control of the vehicle, swerving into on-coming traffic, head on crash, you and your passengers killed or injured, the passengers of the other car killed or injured.

Seriously!!! What do you think?

From what I’ve read… you need to dump this car.

Why would I dump the car? So far the work I am doing is basic work that any car with 130000 miles on it would need. It starts, runs real well, gets good gas milage. I assumed when I bought it that things like Ball joints would need replacing given it’s age, milage and road conditions in the north. I was just kinda of surprised that the oil change guy pointed out the ball joints but said nothing about the engine light being on.

Have you seen the play in the ball joints with your own eyes?? Usually, in a front end, when the ball joints are shot, other things need replacing too, like tie-rod ends and sway-bar bushings…

I have already replaced the sway bar and the passenger side sway bar. Driving it I don’t feel any issue. The mechanic back in Oct who did a full look at my car did say the driver side would need to be replaced soon. The oil jocky on Sat said the “rubber” was missing from the balljoint and I really needed to get it done very soon. I have had my car to other places to get my oil done and they never inspected the ball joints and such. The oil jockey didn’t say there was anything else wrong, but to do the job right the driver side tie rod would need to be replaced so a good full alignment could be done and they could do the two ball joints, tie rod and alignment for $500. My regular mechanic who has done all the work on my car will install the ball joints for $180 total labor. I supply the parts. If I need an alignment I will have to go somewhere else, my mechanic doesn’t have the equipment to do an alignment.

No I haven’t. I have taken the word of the mechanics. The one who did the complete look over the car said the driver side was going to need to be replaced but said nothing about the passenger side. The oil guy said the driver side was missing the rubber and that was bad. He also told me that the wheel that turns the serpentine belt needed to be replaced and I knew that because you can hear it, it is on my to do list. I just figure ball joints are more important right now.

The gap between a ball joint with .0001 play and one that is ready to break and send the car off to oblivion is huge.

Mind you the proper text book response is to say “replace any ball joint with ANY amount of play” but that is just a text book response.

I have serviced many cars with ball joints far exceeding .0001 play, you advise the custmer,work is declined and you continue to see these cars for years,all with the worn out ball joints (and their wheels on).

If you are looking for absolute guarantees remember new parts fail also.

I guess you can tell I think the “any play” rule is overdone.

You need to do some research before you proceed to replace your ball joints and I am not going to do the research for you. Some vertical or horizontal play is permissible with some brands and it also depends if the joint is load carrying or one that only positions front suspension components. A second mechanics’s opinion may be in order too.

During the mid 1960s there were a lot of muffler, alignment and tuneup car repair shops that were scamming the public with unneeded ball joints. This scam seems to have quieted down since then and I hope that it does not return but if it does, I am sure that Car Talk will help to keep the crooked or uninformed mechanics in check.

Check this site to get yourself going with what you need to know to ask questions of your mechanic to assure you and him that the work needs to be done.

It does sound like you may have a torn ball joint boot. FYI, I have never had one tear and mildly suspect your mechanic of tearing it to make work for himself.

I don’t mind taking some risks (involving money). With the possible head gasket problem, anti-freeze leak, rubber missing from one ball joint and the malfunction indicator light on, fix the one ball joint because it has no protection from dirt and water and may rapidly reach the broken point. Check the other one once a year, or even twice.

Just be aware that if the fuel pump quits, it will cost $400 to fix. As long as you have a strategy for the car, you don’t have to please anybody else. Just don’t count on maintaining the current repair status. By now, I’m sure you have considered a few possibilities and they are not really bothering you.

I spent ~$700 to replace a fuel pump on a 91 Taurus back in 1998. The fuel pump alone was close to $400. This was a trusted independent mechanic, not a dealership.

Ed B.

The mechanic on Saturday who said that they are near failure was a guy at the local multi service place. They do all kinds of work, they just had a sale on oil changes so I stopped in and got it done. The mechanic back in Oct. who did a full inspection of the car said the driver side was going to need to be replaced but didn’t seem to concerned with the passanger side. So I am thinking of having the mechanic who does all my work on my car inspect both and repair the one in worse condition this week and going from there.

thanks for the link. From what I have read, and finding out that being charged $180 labor to replace to front ball joints is a good price, I think to be safe I am going to replace both sides. From what I have read while tough it is not a long job to do and having a failure of the ball joint can result in a serious accident.

Is the fuel pump part that expensive or does that include labor?

One does not trash a car because it needs ball joints. There are these places called REPAIR SHOPS, which can replace a worn ball joint.

What’s next? Buy a new car because you need a light bulb?

I’d be very skeptical about this.

Once taking my truck to NTB for a alignment they told me I needed new ball joints. I said…“SHOW ME”. They couldn’t…200k miles later when I sold the truck the ball joints were still fine.

Wifes car was taken in to Monroe Muffler (they now run the tire/service bay at BJ’s discount where we bought the tires from)…same thing…need new ball joints…Again I said…“SHOW ME”…and again they couldn’t. And again…sold vehicle some 150k miles later and the ball joint were still fine.

Most of these places the mechanics work on commission. So the more things they can find wrong with your vehicle the more money they make. The car is 11 years old so they may need new ball joints. I’d get a second opinion from a trusted mechanic.

Well I have had 2 people now tell me that the driver side is bad. One said it was heading towards needing replacement, the one this past saturday said it was there.

What did those places do when they couldn’t show you? What excuse did they give?